After violent incidents in downtown Sudbury, officials say collective effort needed to make area safer
SUDBURY -- While the statistics say there has been less violent crime in downtown Sudbury this year than in 2019, two recent incidents have city officials vowing to make the area safer.
Greater Sudbury Police Chief Paul Pedersen said violent crime is down by 37 per cent in the area, but that doesn't mean people feel safer when going downtown.
“We’ve had a 137 bike patrols this summer, another 180-foot patrols downtown … trying to increase our visible presence down there," Pedersen said. "We have to recognize that crime and fear of crime are two different things. We’ve seen violent crime actually drop 37 percent downtown, but the perceptions of crime have increased and we know what we’re seeing downtown requires a complex solution from multi-sectoral people.”
Mayor Brian Bigger said he knows there's growing concerning about the downtown. Bigger said there are initiatives in the works to change perceptions, including installing new lights.
“We have a contractor that’s changing out the light systems, and so that making it brighter, making it feel safer and that would include streets and laneways," he said. "You’ll see the trucks in the downtown in the near future.”
Evelyn Davie, who owns Stage & Street downtown, said the recent attacks have had an impact on her employees and customers.
“Our employees are a little but nervous," Davie said. "One attack was only a block away, so that does make it a little bit scary. The other one was a little further distanced, but it’s really piling on the stigma of downtown is, maybe, not where you want to go.”
In a joint statement on community safety issued Friday, Bigger said "we are doing everything we can, along with our community partners, to protect you and keep you safe."
It's a complex issue, he said, with the opioid crisis causing problems across the country.
"We have been collaborating with the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to assist with the opioid crisis through requests for feasibility on safe consumption site and a youth hub," Bigger said in the statement. "We've funded a needle recovery program. And The Off the Street Shelter is now open to assist those who require overnight housing and medical care."
"I am meeting with staff to help clean up the downtown and employ measures to keep it safer," Bigger added.
In the joint statement, Pedersen said part of the problem is many people with mental-health challenges and drug addictions are "being displaced into the downtown core" because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We recognize that the increased visibility of homelessness and those living with addictions and mental-health illnesses impacts the perception of safety," he said. "However we know that enforcement is not a suitable or sustainable way to address these concerns."
In addition to a drop in violent crime, Pedersen said the number of times police are called to deal with an incident downtown is down by 20 per cent this year compared to 2019.
“The key is, each of us doing our part," he told Molly Frommer of CTV News. "That includes homeowners, business owners, that includes general public, because it really is a shared commitment.”
Officials involved in making the downtown core a better place have a meeting scheduled Tuesday afternoon where they say they will discuss more in-depth plans.